More Than Biscuit Crumbs

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a stack of biscuits

A stack of biscuits

In his Ted Talk, Tristam Stuart uses biscuits to illustrate the devastating reality of food waste from farm to table. Each biscuit represents a portion of the food at harvest. Stuart starts with ten biscuits and ends with four. The other six are tossed for cosmetic reasons, used for animal feed and trashed in supermarket dumpsters. He chastises the system as an inefficient use of global resources and I couldn’t agree more. But is it inefficiency that is costing the world’s poor their next meal?

The conversation about global hunger often gets stalled in two places: food waste and overpopulation. If there were more food and less people, the problem would be solved, right? In Peter Quinn’s article “Hunger Games: Who Gets to Eat and Who Decides,” an examination of the impact of politics demonstrates how food distribution is perhaps the most important consideration. Whether it is as nefarious as the torturous conditions of a gulag described in Quinn’s article or it is NAFTA disempowering Mexican small farmers, the solution to world hunger is not as simple as waste less, breed less.

The problem of world hunger will not be solved with a reductionist approach. It cannot be separated from power structures that reinforce the economic success of hegemonic forces. It cannot be separated from colonialism, gender politics or racism. It also cannot be eradicated with food aid or technical experts who may provide some temporary relief here and there while accommodating the very system that created the problem. Even if there were a singular solution, it cannot be entrusted to those who stand to gain from it not working. This battle cannot be won with more biscuits.

2 thoughts on “More Than Biscuit Crumbs

  1. hestra01

    I really enjoyed Tristram Stuart’s TED talk on food waste. Being able to understand how much food is wasted and how much food is needed has probably been the biggest thing I have taken away from this class. You are right that world hunger is a much more difficult problem to solve than to waste less food to stop reproducing. You really touch on all the issues that effect the world food system in your last paragraph and it makes the outlook look pretty grim! Do you you have any ideas that would help drive us in the right direction?

  2. bsmith36

    Tristram Stuart’s TED talk on food waste really stood out to me as well. His biscuit analogy was a wonderful example of how wasteful a developing country really is. It’s pretty appalling to learn that good, edible fruits and vegetables are thrown away because of cosmetic reasons (they are not large enough or they don’t have the right shape) rather than donated to a food bank; especially when so many people suffer from malnutrition due to the lack of access to fresh produce. Stuart also raises the question of why we feed pigs crops such as soy, wheat and corn, crops that could be used for human consumption, when really pigs are biologically designed to eat food waste. By finding a safe way for pigs to eat food waste, its possible this could eliminate much of the deforestation that occurs to grow the soy, when and corn crops, and help feed hungry people. While many of the points you touched on regarding the world hunger are true, Stuart’s efforts are a start in the right direction. His message is a powerful one that will hopefully inspire others to follow suit.

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